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CEOs concerned executives aren’t digital savvy enough

A new survey from Gartner has revealed that CEOs priorities are slowly shifting to meet rising growth challenges.

Growth continues to top the list of CEO business priorities in 2019 and 2020, with the most notable change in comparison to last year's results is that a growing number of CEOs also deem financial priorities important, especially profitability improvement.

In total, 473 business leaders of companies with $50 million or more and 60% with $1 billion or more in annual revenue were qualified and surveyed.

“After a significant fall last year, mentions of growth increased this year to 53%, up from 40% in 2018,” says Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Mark Raskino.

“This suggests that CEOs have switched their focus back to tactical performance as clouds gather on the horizon. However, we did not see CEOs intending to significantly cut costs in various business areas. They are aware of the rising economic challenges and proceeding with more caution — they are not preparing for recession.

Cost management has risen in CEO priorities, from No. 10 in 2018 to No. 8 today. And this is good news for technology and IT, as when asked about their cost-control methods, 27% of respondents cited technology enablement, securing the third spot after measures around people and organisation, such as bonuses and expense and budget management.

However, when asked to consider productivity and efficiency actions, CEOs were much more inclined to think of technology as a tool. 47% of respondents mentioned technology as one of their top two ways to improve productivity.

A large concern for CEOs, however, is that some executive roles do not possess strong or even sufficient digital skills to face the future. On average, CEOs think that sales, risk, supply chain and HR officers are most in need of more digital savvy.

When asked which organisational competencies their company needs to develop the most, 18% of CEOs named talent management, closely followed by technology enablement and digitalisation (17%) and data centricity or data management (15%).

“Datacentric decision-making is a key culture and capability change in a management system that hopes to thrive in the digital age. Executive leaders must be a role model to encourage and foster data centricity and data literacy in their business units and the organisation as a whole,” says Raskino.

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